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I guess I just like liking things

Gravitas and wackiness all in one Phil Hartman-sized package

Gravitas and wackiness all in one Phil Hartman-sized package

Yesterday was the fifteenth anniversary of Phil Hartman‘s untimely death. My inclination was to do a Tuesday 10 in honor of his memory, but the list was too strange. Sure he was in Jingle All the Way, Small Soldiers, and ¡Three Amigos!, but those aren’t the things you remember him for. You remember him from such shows as Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, and NewsRadio, and probably in that order. I couldn’t get past those three and make any sense of an order for the remaining stuff, no matter how much of an irrational love I have for the movie Coneheads.

I’ve never been much of a Saturday Night Live guy. I mean, sure, I enjoy the famous skits, but those are the ones that bubble up and get famous for a reason – I let the Internet tell me which ones are worth my time. I’m sure I’ve missed some good ones here and there, but I’m well-enough-versed to keep up my end of the conversation in an SNL discussion. Somewhere in the midst of that I picked up on how important he was to SNL the years he was there, a combination of glue and father figure with a sense of comedy few had. He wasn’t afraid to take risks and he was often the only reason material worked.

His characters on The Simpsons (most notably Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure) are some of the best, and it’s easy to tell even if you didn’t know that Zapp Brannigan on Futurama was a a role created specifically for him. NewsRadio was a perfect fit for him (even though it most likely contributed to his murder), and the season after he was gone is a good indication of just how much he brought to the table.

Whenever I happen to think about Phil Hartman, I can’t help but think of two other performers: Jim Henson and Steve Martin. Like Jim Henson, Phil was taken too soon and we were robbed of so much more enjoyment they would have provided.  Like Steve Martin, Phil was a man of many talents, and I can’t help but wonder what else he might’ve gotten around to later in life.

Gone too soon.


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